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imrazor

macrumors 6502
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Sep 8, 2010
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Dol Amroth
Has anyone monitored the thermals on the new M1 MacBook Air when operating in clamshell mode? The reason I ask is this video:


Linus Sebastian explains that at least part of the heat comes out through the top of the keyboard, and passes out in front of the screen. If the lid is closed, does this excess heat have any place to go?
 

Toutou

macrumors 65816
Jan 6, 2015
1,082
1,575
Prague, Czech Republic
The top of the machine doesn't get as hot as the bottom plate. There is so much thermal mass (the heatsink) and isolation (air inside the machine) between the CPU and the chassis, that the whole machine radiates heat, not only specific parts. I run my Air mostly in clamshell mode and the thermals feel the same to me. I even tried raising the machine above the table, running it freestanding vertically on the table and found no measurable difference.
 
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tps3443

macrumors 65816
Jan 24, 2019
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The keyboard area does get warm (You don't really notice this while typing) (Because it is the aluminum around the keys that is warm). Use an inferred laser to test it your self. The Macbook M1 Air can throw some heat out of the keyboard area. But most of the heat is above the keyboard, and below the screen. I think we get a decent amount of air coming through the keys on the keyboard that does help some with passive cooling while using the M1 machines.

I have always noticed the warmest area on the Macbook M1 Air is between the keys 6, and 7 right below the F6 key. I have seen 40-42C temperatures here. Which is actually warmer than the bottom panel.

Now, I am certain that a modified M1 Air with thermal pads will have a much warmer bottom panel ( Than my machine). I am guessing like SUB 50C once you have quality thermal pads applied.

I enjoy a nice cool lap while using my M1 Air MacBook. So I have not performed the thermal pad mod my self. I think these machines are solid right out of the gate. 7%? 8%? I simply don't need that.. I have a desktop for extreme performance. The M1 air is amazingly cool and quiet exactly how it sits!


If your workflow can benefit with this extra 7% sustained performance and time is money, I would maybe consider the thermal pad mod then.
 
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imrazor

macrumors 6502
Original poster
Sep 8, 2010
388
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Dol Amroth
@tps3443 According to benchmarks I've seen, some extended workloads (**cough**games**cough**, or video renders) can have up to a 20% performance penalty vs the M1 Macbook Pro. Not in every workload, and indeed not every game I play suffers. But performance in some (looking at you, Skyrim SE) performance *noticeably* degrades after a few minutes.

I have not done an export of an hours long video because my video editing for me is a strictly amateur (and lets admit it, amateurish) pursuit. That, or transcoding, is another workload that might see a significant boost from the 'upgrade.'
 

tps3443

macrumors 65816
Jan 24, 2019
1,406
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@tps3443 According to benchmarks I've seen, some extended workloads (**cough**games**cough**, or video renders) can have up to a 20% performance penalty vs the M1 Macbook Pro. Not in every workload, and indeed not every game I play suffers. But performance in some (looking at you, Skyrim SE) performance *noticeably* degrades after a few minutes.

I have not done an export of an hours long video because my video editing for me is a strictly amateur (and lets admit it, amateurish) pursuit. That, or transcoding, is another workload that might see a significant boost from the 'upgrade.'

Absolutely. I’ve tested a lot of games My self. (Rust especially) (Rust is also demanding)

Another thing I have noticed is between the 7 core and 8 core gpu Air MacBooks.

Well under normal conditions, the 7-8 core were negligible. Within 8-12% performance difference. But after gaming for north of 30 minutes, and everything warms up, I have seen the 8 core MacBook Air literally open the gap to 20-25% faster than the 7 core gpu model.

For long term gaming I point a silent desk fan at my M1 Air 16GB/1TB (8 core GPU) it blows air underneath it, and over the keyboard area.

The only reason why I run the fan is, I don’t like my battery being that hot for so long.. These batteries are hitting 42-46C after hours of gaming. And just by pointing a fan at our machines, it keeps that battery really cool.

I usually lock my FPS to 30 in most games. And throttling isn’t an issue for me. However, I have personally experienced a 7 core gpu model M1 reach that point where thermal pads would be needed to maintain smooth gaming.
 

Fuchal

macrumors 68030
Sep 30, 2003
2,608
1,105
I use my Air all day in a TwelveSouth vertical stand connected to a 4K monitor, and it rarely even gets warm to the touch on the bottom.
 

tps3443

macrumors 65816
Jan 24, 2019
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908
NC,USA
I use my Air all day in a TwelveSouth vertical stand connected to a 4K monitor, and it rarely even gets warm to the touch on the bottom.

for sure! I am only referring to 15-20GB of ram usage, while the GPU sits at 100% load for hours on end.

These fanless systems handle it without trouble.
 

imrazor

macrumors 6502
Original poster
Sep 8, 2010
388
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Dol Amroth
@tps3443 I also have an 8-core GPU in my MBA. Your experience of the 8-core running faster than the 7-core runs counter to what I had heard - that there was little difference in performance after the machine heated up. Presumably because 8 cores generates more heat than 7 cores...

Macs Fan Control recently released an update that made it compatible with M1 Macs. While the MBA has no fans, Macs Fan Control still provides a handy readout of the laptop's thermal sensors. And Skyrim SE was pushing temps up into the upper 90s. But not the GPU; rather it was the CPU that was getting toasty. So for the time being I've limited parallels to 3 CPU cores and that seems to keep temps to 90C and below, while also preventing the hard throttling I was seeing. Some judicious tweaking of the graphical settings is still necessary for (mostly) smooth gameplay.

How do you get the air to circulate underneath the MBA? Some sort of stand, like @Fuchal was talking about? Or do you use a DIY solution? I have invested in a small, cheap USB fan, but it doesn't move huge amounts of air.

@Fuchal, you wouldn't happen to have a link to the stand you were talking about, would you?
 

tps3443

macrumors 65816
Jan 24, 2019
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@tps3443 I also have an 8-core GPU in my MBA. Your experience of the 8-core running faster than the 7-core runs counter to what I had heard - that there was little difference in performance after the machine heated up. Presumably because 8 cores generates more heat than 7 cores...

Macs Fan Control recently released an update that made it compatible with M1 Macs. While the MBA has no fans, Macs Fan Control still provides a handy readout of the laptop's thermal sensors. And Skyrim SE was pushing temps up into the upper 90s. But not the GPU; rather it was the CPU that was getting toasty. So for the time being I've limited parallels to 3 CPU cores and that seems to keep temps to 90C and below, while also preventing the hard throttling I was seeing. Some judicious tweaking of the graphical settings is still necessary for (mostly) smooth gameplay.

How do you get the air to circulate underneath the MBA? Some sort of stand, like @Fuchal was talking about? Or do you use a DIY solution? I have invested in a small, cheap USB fan, but it doesn't move huge amounts of air.

@Fuchal, you wouldn't happen to have a link to the stand you were talking about, would you?

I have seen the 8 core GPU run cooler than a 7 core GPU (From comparing some MacBook Air’s my self) My whole point to why the 8 core gpu throttles less, and offers better performance when both are warm, is because the 8 core GPU is the premium silicon of the two. The same 8 core GPU silicon that goes in that of the MacBook Pro 13”. This silicon is obviously binned. And binned silicon will use less voltage, in turn producing less power, and creating less heat.

Now this is just a theory, but it holds a lot of water too though.

The MacBook Air 13” Pro M1 was given the better silicon. Apple even offered this silicon for Air buyers that wish to pay the small premium for it. And the premium is worth it for sure.

Now I have only tested one 7 core MacBook Air, (wasn’t my machine) but I have owned and tested (2) 8 core GPU MacBook Air machines. And the results were very similar and repeatable, in the same ambient temperatures. The casing in the same area on the 8 core gpu model was drastically cooler in specific areas. As the performance was noticeably better as well. (Steam FPS counter)

I am surprised that almost every reviewer looked right past this. After equilibrium is reached the 8 core gpu runs cooler and faster in an amount more than that of just 1 more core. And some reviews do reflect this. I have seem
numbers showing like

This is only a theory, but it does make sense. The best silicon goes in a Pro M1. And the Air is available to get it too. (And it’s worth it!

Now going from 7 core gpu to an 8 core gpu will generally offer a 14-15% advantage with an 8 core gpu. But on a 7 core machine I tested, vs an 8 core gpu would always throttle less..Turning in to 20-23% faster gaming performance that was easily repeatable in Rust, and Euro Truck Simulator 2.

These numbers are pretty drastic. Instead of 35FPS you can get 42FPS with only a 20% increase in performance. Which was always the minimum (That I saw)

Now, my testing doesn’t mean crap.. (YOUR MILEAGE MAY VARY ) You could possibly have a golden 7 core gpu air that runs super cool under a heavy sustained load with minimal throttling at all. So, then you’re only left with the difference of 7 VS 8.

Now some simpler games do not throttle either machines. Rust, and Euro truck sim 2 both use ram, cpu, and full GPU usage all the time. So they will heat these machines up. I have never tested (Less demanding) or ( Easy to render games) Probably negligible or minimal difference at all.


Anyways, I spent a lot of time testing this and comparing them. I do hope this information was intriguing for you.
 
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imrazor

macrumors 6502
Original poster
Sep 8, 2010
388
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Dol Amroth
@tps3443 That makes a ton of sense (so to speak.) For example, I know that the AMD Ryzen 9 3950X generally runs with the same TDP profile as the 3900X, which has **4 fewer cores**. And that's all due to binning. I think your theory has legs. It'd be interesting to see if anyone could prove or disprove it.
 

tps3443

macrumors 65816
Jan 24, 2019
1,406
908
NC,USA
@tps3443 That makes a ton of sense (so to speak.) For example, I know that the AMD Ryzen 9 3950X generally runs with the same TDP profile as the 3900X, which has **4 fewer cores**. And that's all due to binning. I think your theory has legs. It'd be interesting to see if anyone could prove or disprove it.

And the 3900X uses more voltage than a 3950X too. Or most intel CPU's too. Just like my 7980XE (18) Core uses drastically less voltage than a 7900X (10) core CPU.

Apple M1 is manufactured on TSMC same as current and last gen AMD CPU's.

They bin CPU's like crazy. They always have. I think the Mac Pro 13" was going to get the best bin silicon regardless. And with TSMC having a massive silicon shortage, apple used the lower bins to their own advantage, which was perfect for the MacBook Air base model as a 7 gpu model sold for slightly less money. ( Its an amazing machine, at a more amazing price)

This was smart for Apple to do. Silicon is in huge demand right now. Apple gets most of the cut from TSMC, so AMD and Nvidia and others are left fighting for the rest.

The $50 dollar premium for the 8 core bin, is very much worth it.
 

imrazor

macrumors 6502
Original poster
Sep 8, 2010
388
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Dol Amroth
AMD didn't used to bin so aggressively. So it was possible, for example, for me to overclock a Ryzen 7 1700 500+ Mhz over stock. Nowadays, it's harder to do that. All the good silicon goes to the higher tier parts, making overclocking close to pointless. No more free performance... :(

But the flip side is now you're more likely to *not* have to twiddle with overclocks to get maximum performance. Still, it was fun to tinker while it lasted.
 

HBU-HeavyBusinessUser

macrumors newbie
Jul 1, 2021
2
2
Has anyone monitored the thermals on the new M1 MacBook Air when operating in clamshell mode? The reason I ask is this video:


Linus Sebastian explains that at least part of the heat comes out through the top of the keyboard, and passes out in front of the screen. If the lid is closed, does this excess heat have any place to go?
HEAVY BUSINESS USER OF M1 SOLVES THERMAL CONCERNS

Ahh ah. First the background as a "paranoid-optimist" I read the thermal concerns with M1 after purchasing one 2 months ago and loaded istats -
My initial set up of Macbook air m1 8 core 16gb extended screen layout on raised alu screen holder, next to a curved 4k 32" Philips screen driven via caldigit box (the large one with the fins) with speakers, tonal microphone, logitec 920c plus power via usbc (this point could be important so I will mention - one Usbc socked drives the screen directly and the other one takes all other ancillories and power from Caldigit thunderbolt port) - apps driving outlook running 5 accounts, teams running with 4-8 hours of video conf. per day, occasional zoom alternative videos, 3-6 spreadsheets, 2-3 lengthy word docs and same for powerpoints,3-6 pdfs, ever hungry chrome with 5-15 tabs, and istats I was concerned when I saw temperatures raise to 55-75 degrees for the cores.
To cut to the chase - and skip a few iterations which alas did not include thermal mod of internals I sat the m1 on a Tecknet laptop cooler (essential for my previous xps) put it in CLAM mode and managed with the 32" curved screen real estate on its own and I solved multiple problems immediately ...................
1. The M1 runs cooler 30-40 previously 40 -70
2. My neck ache has disappeared from the continuous 90 degree movement from laptop to edge of curved monitor - OK that's my fault in the original set up - to be fair I did try it underneath and this reduced strain. But I had to raise the screen so high that the web cam missed the top of my head and focussed on the bookcase!
3. I also had a problem when I put the M1 into presentation mode in powerpoint on screen share that the audience would say it was still too small. It worked 50% of the time.

Anyway the latter 2 issues are clearly setup and experience although worthy of note especially when most people are after ease of operation
- however the first one is perplexing why would it run cooler given previous peoples experience that cooling mats without the mod providing the connectivity between CPU and case make little difference under severe load? Thermo dynamics are tricky as I remember from my early days in aerospace engines- conductivity vs. convection!. So maybe my heavy business app loading, but non gaming and non video rendering clearly generate less extreme heat but nevertheless a level that is still unwanted long term on such a machine and these can be addressed with this new set up.
Clam mode would lead one to think its closed so less heat loss and more problems - but the screen is NOT on and all its associated drivers/processors which are significant compared to the double screen set up. Perhaps the cooling map does not make a huge difference -mmm when I pick up the m1 it is NOT slightly warm underneath just ambient if left on the mat so that does not compute. And because I rest the caldigit on the cooling map as well it gets a dam sight cooler.

Without descending further into paralysis by analysis - I am amazed with the M1's performance and reliability and have left the XPS and HP Elites and do not see a return to these steam driven apparatus.
For a work tool that I am totally reliant on and use in these unprecedented times up to 16 hours a day it is simply a remarkble pice of kit.
 
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One2Grift

Cancelled
Jun 1, 2021
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Interesting. At first I thought it was a clickbait YT video that chases a solution to a problem that doesn't exist. But it was interesting to see the out of spec tinkering, 'what if' as well as a bit of the Apple engineering thinking.
Apple's fanless laptop providing this much power at a reduced power consumption and doesn't get hot to a user's touch is a hell of an engineering feat. One that will also help elevate the competition's products (good for us consumers).
 

HBU-HeavyBusinessUser

macrumors newbie
Jul 1, 2021
2
2
Interesting. At first I thought it was a clickbait YT video that chases a solution to a problem that doesn't exist. But it was interesting to see the out of spec tinkering, 'what if' as well as a bit of the Apple engineering thinking.
Apple's fanless laptop providing this much power at a reduced power consumption and doesn't get hot to a user's touch is a hell of an engineering feat. One that will also help elevate the competition's products (good for us consumers).
You are right - it's not a problem! - thermal paranoia switches to long-term optimism and enjoyment of the m1's capability to handle even the most daunting business tasks from a multi-tasker.
 
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MrGunny94

macrumors 65816
Dec 3, 2016
1,140
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Malaga, Spain
Interesting. At first I thought it was a clickbait YT video that chases a solution to a problem that doesn't exist. But it was interesting to see the out of spec tinkering, 'what if' as well as a bit of the Apple engineering thinking.
Apple's fanless laptop providing this much power at a reduced power consumption and doesn't get hot to a user's touch is a hell of an engineering feat. One that will also help elevate the competition's products (good for us consumers).
Yeah personally I don't have these issues, I have it in clamshell mode working with my ultra wide and so far no issues what so ever.

Heck some mornings I end up going to to a coffee shop and work on the garden and it sometimes I see the Air is sitting at 25c lol
 
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imrazor

macrumors 6502
Original poster
Sep 8, 2010
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Dol Amroth
@HBU-HeavyBusinessUser Glad to hear you got things sorted out. I have a vertical stand for my MBA, but unfortunately it also blocks the lower part of the device. I've got a small USB fan pointing at it when "docked", but since part of the machine is covered by the stand, the fan is probably not as effective as it could be.

I see you got the Caldigit TB3 dock. The price point is pretty good, but I wish it had a USB-C port. (Or did you get one of the higher tier models?) Any thoughts on its reliability and performance?
 

DaV754

macrumors newbie
Sep 23, 2021
4
0
Warszawa
Hello here.
My the only concern about clamshell mode of my MBA is will my display get overheat and maybe damage over time with my CPU sitting around 60-80 and periodically jump to 90+ degrees for 4-6 hours a day.
I would like to use it in clamshell mode with vertical stand, but above concern stoping me.
 

imrazor

macrumors 6502
Original poster
Sep 8, 2010
388
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Dol Amroth
We're talking about M1 CPUs here. M1s don't get nearly that hot. It sounds like you have an Intel CPU in your MBA. Unfortunately I can't say what kind of damage thermals that high might do your laptop screen, or other parts. You could try pointing a small portable fan at it and see if that helps keep the temps down.
 

DaV754

macrumors newbie
Sep 23, 2021
4
0
Warszawa
We're talking about M1 CPUs here. M1s don't get nearly that hot. It sounds like you have an Intel CPU in your MBA. Unfortunately I can't say what kind of damage thermals that high might do your laptop screen, or other parts. You could try pointing a small portable fan at it and see if that helps keep the temps down.
I have m1 cpu :) running teams/tons of safari tabs/Visual studio/Xcode and it’s keep around 50-55 on CPU. When I’m add World of Warcraft on top of that I got sometimes 90+ spikes but for most time I have around 76-80 degrees.
Right now is
Screenshot 2021-09-24 at 12.09.09.png
 

DaV754

macrumors newbie
Sep 23, 2021
4
0
Warszawa
The thermal management of M1s is the same as it was in Intel machines, they don't throttle until 90+ °C.
M1s get stuff done quickly, but they heat up doing it like any other CPU.
Well, I do not worry about my CPU getting or keep hot. It needs to work so it does. But my front metal panel right under display warm to 40-43 when lid opened and to 45+ when lid closed. Thats my question. Will such thermal damage my display with time or not. Its crucial for me to decide could I work with closed lid and external monitor or should keep lid opened.
 

Ray2

macrumors 65816
Jul 8, 2014
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I can't comment specifically on your machine. I can comment on running for long periods in clamshell mode. I did it for at least a decade with a number of MBP's. What you saw on youtube is the norm. Those people are always out there and always pointing out the pitfalls of your decision. Yet, exclusively using my machines for stills photography, limited video and running as a media server 24/7, I never had any unusual thermal issues. The only downside I encountered was battery life took a big hit. They like, perhaps need, to be used. Apple laptops have been run in closed clamshell mode for ages. Give the engineers some credit.
 
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